Almost every year, the single most appreciated mailing sent out by Benjamin Law Group deals with our analysis and recommendations in the elections for local state court Judges. We have received heartfelt messages thanking us for providing insight into the little-known candidates who are always found at the bottom of the ballot.
Why does it matter? Because the quality of the Judge seems to be the leading indicator on whether our client has a satisfying experience in court. There are 53 Superior Court Judges in King County, Washington. These Judges hear civil cases, divorces, estates and criminal cases. Each Judge must stand for re-election every four years. With the terms staggered, state judicial elections are held about every other year. It has been reported that a much higher than normal amount of the bench, one-third or more of the 53 Judges, will retire before the next election. This means that many important elections will be coming up soon!
What makes a great Judge? Fairness, Experience, Intellect and Effort. Fairness means being neutral, free of bias, and conducting the courtroom in a way that also appears fair. Experience relates to the potential Judge’s own life and work experiences. If the judicial candidate’s resume is thin or if he or she has spent their career on one side of a legal issue, legitimate questions are raised. Intellect asks the question whether the person is smart enough to analyze complex questions. Effort is perhaps the greatest indicator of whether a person will make a good Judge. The public does not appreciate how much work outside of the standard 9-5 schedule goes into reading briefs, legal research and drafting orders.
You can look forward to receiving our thoughts on the next judicial election about one month before each election cycle. We hope the insights help you make your own good choices.
Just like we must be careful in how each of us vote for state Judges, the public should also be vigilant in making sure that nominated federal judges are qualified. Today we read about two of President Trump’s appointments to the federal District Court being possibly withdrawn for being unqualified. Unlike our state courts, where a Judge ultimately must face the electorate, federal District Court and appeals Judges are appointed FOR LIFE!
Whenever they lack sufficient skill, experience or temperament, we should communicate our concerns to our U.S. Senators who will vote on whether the nominee gets confirmed.